If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked if the NBN will cope with the dramatically increased load of having people working and schooling from home – I’d be able to guarantee the bills during this crisis. But the question is valid, we’re seeing an unprecedented and unpredicted shift in the way we use the internet. So can it cope? And how do you get the best from your home internet?
Can the NBN Cope?
Of course, we don’t really know, but personally, I have no cause for concern.
For those connected to the slowest NBN technology (Fibre to the Node, and living a long way from the Node) or Fixed Wireless – you’re going to have the toughest challenge, but not as tough as those still on ADSL who have held out on connecting to the NBN.
Across Millions and millions of Aussie homes, we’ve been pushing the NBN to it’s limits for months – at night. Streaming Stan or Netflix has created a very clear night-time peak in NBN Network traffic.
Working from home and schooling from home, while it’s an increase on normal traffic, isn’t creating as high of a peak as the evening streaming peak.
Plus, the NBN has offered all Telcos 40% more bandwidth for free, so that can be a help in keeping things going.
To demonstrate this demand, here’s Aussie Broadband’s network traffic in one of the 121 Points of Interconnect around Australia:
The blue line is their capacity – the “number of lanes on the highway” they have for the users in that area.
In Black is the actual usage (Downloads). You can clearly see the night-time peak, and during the day, there’s a much higher usage than normal.
But you can also see there is room to spare. In this case Aussie Broadband also have a second link with much more capacity to ensure their customers maintain their user experience.
I know of no other telco that publishes this data, but it should be information you can see to ensure your telco is doing everything they can to provide you with reliable speeds.
What can I do at home?
Firstly, check which speed plan you’ve signed up to.
If you chose 25Mbps because it was cheapest, that’s fine – but you may need more speed at this time. Boost that up to 50 and it will make a dramatic difference.
Secondly, do comprehensive speed testing, don’t just check on your mobile phone.
Plug a computer into the modem and do a speed test. This will give you the best indication of the actual NBN line-speed.
If you can’t plug in, use your mobile device on WiFi but sit or stand directly next to the modem.
On a traditional modem with WiFi the further you are from the modem, the slower the speed gets.
Next do a test of speed on your same device but this time sit or stand closer to where you are going to setup your Work From Home operation.
If it’s slower. Then your WiFi network is at fault.
Why does the choice of Telco matter?
The Aussie Broadband graphs above show what just that one telco are doing in my area. If another Telco has double the customers of Aussie, but have the same bandwidth available, you will have a bottleneck in data transfers and therefore speeds.
Ask your neighbour who they are with, and what speeds they are getting. It can absolutely make a dramatic difference if you switch from one telco to another.
What kind of WiFi network should I have?
The WiFi network created by that modem your ISP supplied isn’t great. Simple as that.
If you want the full speed of your internet in every corner of your home, you must consider upgrading to a MESH WiFi system.
They plug into your existing modem – no need to change that at all, other than to disable it’s WiFi if you can.
Your new network will get a unique name, get the full speed your paying for and will bring smiles to the face of even the grumpiest snapchatting teen.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.